This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Touching the blocks of the Roosevelt Dam


Yesterday I touched the 1906 blocks of the Roosevelt Dam. And no, I'm not talking about in my imagination, I was in Tempe, at the Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park. You can do it yourself, and I encourage you to, especially if you're interested in Phoenix history.

I've been to the history museum there often, and each time I go, I walk over to the Roosevelt Dam. Well, the whole dam isn't there, the whole darned thing is over on the Salt River, where it's been since 1911, north of Apache Junction. The blocks there in Tempe are bits and pieces that were removed when the dam was expanded, in the '80s and '90s.

The Apache Tail of Arizona and Roosevelt Dam

If you've never seen the actual Roosevelt Dam, it's well worth a look. I recommend taking the Apache Trail just to get the right feel. The road hasn't changed much since it was built for construction of the dam, and although a four-wheel drive vehicle isn't required, it does take some careful driving in narrow spaces. Those of you who have been there know what I mean.


Turtle Rock in the 1930s, Curry Road between Mill and Scottsdale Road.

For those of you who would prefer not to travel so far, I recommend visiting the Roosevelt Dam on College Avenue between Mill and Scottsdale Road (just north of Curry). It's at the Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park, towards the back. It's on the north side of the river (not the ASU side, which is south of the river) so if you're not familiar with that part of Tempe, it may be pleasant surprise to see it. To me, it seems closer to Old Town Scottsdale than anywhere else. It's over by Turtle Rock, if that helps.

When you go there, it can be easy to walk right past it, and never even notice that it's there. And it's not that it's not big enough to see, it's just that most people are used to walking right into a building (what I call the "Gift Shop Syndrome"). I tend to stay out of buildings, and away from gift shops (although I'm getting better) and that means that it was the first thing I saw, and the most important thing for me to see again each time I visit the museum.

By the way, you don't have to pay admission to see the dam. Just walk right up to it. Of course, you'll want to go to the museum, and see the cool displays. If you're a Triple A member you get a discount, which I got, although I did an additional donation, anyway.

I spend a lot of time in cyberspace so I'm delighted to get out and see stuff IRL (in real life). And if you know the history of the Roosevelt Dam, and how important it was, and continues to be, to Phoenix, simply touching blocks is quite a feeling.

Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park
Showcase for multimedia & hands-on displays on city life & other aspects of Arizona history.
Address: 1300 N College Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281


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